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Thread: A few questions about pranayama

  1. #1

    A few questions about pranayama

    Hi everyone.
    So, as a prelude to my question, I suppose I should give a brief synopsis of what I've been doing. I've been practicing yoga for about a year and a half, using Sri Swami Satyananda's book, 'A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya'. Amazing book, I've worked worked through the first 7 (out of 36) lessons so far, recently started on the 8th. Overall, they involved pretty much basic asanas, nadi shodhana pranayama, surya namaskara, and some meditational techniques like body awareness, anuloma viloma, and, just now, trataka on a candle flame. Also, they've introduced techniques like jala neti and kunjal kriya, which have been great. So far I've had amazing results, never felt better in my life.

    In anticipation of some of the replies to come, I know that I technically need a real teacher but I've been somewhat disappointed with the idea of asana oriented classes, and the idea of practicing meditation in a room with 30 other people doesn't really work for me. As far as a guru, you can call me an idealist but I subscribe to the idea that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

    The other relevant detail is that I used to be a smoker. 15 cigarettes a day, although for only about four months, and occasional marijuana over the course of about 7 years. I quit a year and a half ago. You can see where this is going.

    My question is: will a history of smoking severely limit my progress in pranayama? I understand that lungs recover over time, but is progress in pranyama mostly based on the physical lung capacity or the mental control of prana? I'm leaning towards the latter because when you have a case where a swami holds his breath for 45 minutes, I think it's pretty safe to say that it's more than just lung capacity at work. But that's not to say it doesn't play a role to an extent. The question is, to what extent?

    The reason I'm asking is that I've just recently started incorporating kumbhaka into nadi shodhana and I'm beginning to realize just how difficult it's going to be to get the timing ratios to their final levels. In the above mentioned book, the eventual ratio to aim for is 1:8:6:2 for inhalation:inner retention:exhalation:outer retention. The inhalation also has to be sufficiently slow so as not to create any noise (not counting the noise from ujjayi). For me that means an inhalation of roughly 10 seconds. So when the final ratio is achieved, that comes out to almost 3 minutes for each round of inhalation and exhalation, including the inner and outer retention. In another book on pranayama, Sri Swami Sivananda mentions this as an almost trivial accomplishment and one that can be easily done with practice and "without help from anyone". As encouraging as that sounds, my previous experience still leaves me slightly doubtful.

    Right now I can easily do a ratio (in seconds) of 10:8:20, with no strain and without outer retention. Right now I only do 10-15 minutes of pranayama with kumbhaka, since the book recommends not to overdo kumbhaka initially, but I still practice nadi shodhana without kumbhaka for a second time in the evening, for about 20 minutes. The other thing is that over the last year I haven't progressed much as far as the duration, it's always stayed around 12:24 seconds when I practiced without retention, but never going above 15:30. However, I have noticed that whichever nostril I usually have blocked during practice is now much less blocked than it used to be when I started over a year ago, and I often have days where both nostrils are completely open during practice. So while the durations I use haven't increased much, practice has definitely become easier with time.

    So, has anyone here achieved ratios like 1:8:6:2, or anything similar? I would love to hear how long it took you and how much daily practice you had to put in. Were there any other factors like diet, etc. that you felt were a significant contribution? I guess I would just like to hear your experiences.

  2. #2
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    September 2007
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    Re: A few questions about pranayama

    Vannakkam Etheros: I don't think that amount of smoking for just over 4 months will have done much damage to your lungs. Someone living close to a busy street of fumes, or who's done a lot of camping, or even spent a lot of time around havans may have as much lung damage.

    Aum Namasivaya

  3. #3
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    October 2010
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    Re: A few questions about pranayama

    Pranayama is supposed to be learnt from a Guru and doing on your own from book will have side effects. Even though it looks easy..improper way of breathing and not following the prerequisites might lead to trouble. I have been hunting for a good Guru who can teach me Pranayama for so long
    ॐ महेश्वराय नमः

    || Om Namo Bhagavate Rudraya ||

    Hara Hara Mahadeva Shambo Shankara

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    September 2006
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    Re: A few questions about pranayama

    hariḥ oṁ


    We know that prāṇa is part of our daily life support. The wise say we breathe 21,600 times a day (+/-). This breathing is called prāṇāna प्राणन- breathing, respiration.

    Some also may practice prāṇāyāma - we know as the regulation of the breath. Prāṇāyāma is a method to control the breath/life force, but at the same time āyāma, to extend it. The ultimate extension is perfect balance.

    Perhaps spending a few minutes reading the posts found here may be of some use:

    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva


  5. #5

    Re: A few questions about pranayama

    Quote Originally Posted by Eastern Mind View Post
    Vannakkam Etheros: I don't think that amount of smoking for just over 4 months will have done much damage to your lungs. Someone living close to a busy street of fumes, or who's done a lot of camping, or even spent a lot of time around havans may have as much lung damage.

    Aum Namasivaya
    I'm not sure about the kind of camping you have in mind, but I assure you that smoking is probably far worse for you. But you are right, and the general consensus seems to be that the lungs do repair themselves over the course of some years.

  6. #6
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    November 2012
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    Re: A few questions about pranayama

    I am 46 years old yet, and have smoked 30 years. I gave up 4 months ago and feel good now.
    Anyway, if your previous smoking hurt your body or not, you should practice as good as you can. And never fall back into smoking. I saw it many times ,that people fell back into old habits also after many years. I think when you always practice pranayama, you are aware of it, and it can only boost you.
    Last edited by Arjunesh; 21 March 2013 at 12:57 PM.

  7. #7

    Re: A few questions about pranayama

    Simple, Yet Effective Breathing Exercises

    (In 2007, Sri Chinmoy was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Sri Chinmoy conducted meditations at the United Nations for about 30 years and at the US Congress for about 20 years.)


    not necessary to get caught up in the all "science" of it.

    if you connect your breath, in meditation to The Source, to God, He can offer you anything you need through that kind of connection.

    Breathe in, breathe in His Peace, exhale tension and worry...

    these kinds of things cover all bases at once, health issues included.

    Doing more and more difficult pranayamas will not necessarily move you closer and closer to God.

    Doing basic pranayama forms and having those getting more and more connected to God is what we really need...and also want.

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